With Bryan Bulaga a pending free agent, should the Green Bay Packers go with Jared Veldeer at right tackle in 2020 while they search for their long-term solution?
The Green Bay Packers have over 20 of their own pending free agents that they need to make decisions on this offseason, and one of the more notable names includes right tackle Bryan Bulaga.
Over the years, Bulaga has caught some flack from many fans due to his injury history but when he’s on the field, you can’t deny that he has been one of the best right tackles in the game for a number of years now. And although he is approaching 31-years-old, as we saw in 2019, he is still playing at a high-level.
Bulaga would start all 16 regular season games in 2019 and although he’d leave a few of those games with an injury, he was still on the field for over 83 percent of the Packers’ offensive snaps. As far as his play is concerned, it was superb. In 612 pass-blocking snaps, Bulaga allowed just four sacks and four quarterback hits. And keep in mind this was against some of the NFL’s best edge-rushers, including Khalil Mack, Nick Bosa, Von Miller, Everson Griffen, and Danielle Hunter, just to name a few.
Now as a free agent, Spotrac is estimating that Bulaga will earn a 3 year – $30.4 million contract with an average annual value of $10.1 million. Given the caliber of player that Bulaga is, that’s a very reasonable price considering that right tackles don’t exactly grow on trees.
However as we’ve seen in the past with T.J. Lang and Josh Sitton, while they still found success after Green Bay, ultimately, it was injuries that derailed their careers at the end. And as the old saying goes, it’s better to let a player go a year early than a year too late.
One way or another, whether it be by the Green Bay Packers or another team, Bulaga is going to get paid this offseason. But with his injury history and some concern about how he will age over the next three seasons, as good of a player as he is, there’s no guarantee that the Packers bring him back.
And if that happens to be the case, a short-term solution would be bringing back free agent Jared Veldheer to be the primary right tackle in 2020.
Veldheer came out of retirement as was a mid-season addition by Brian Gutekunst and ended up playing a huge role for the Packers at the end of the season. In Week 17 against Detroit as Green Bay was trying to clinch a first-round bye, Bulaga left with an injury and Veldheer took over. Then two weeks later in the NFC Divisional round, with Bulaga out with the flu, Veldheer was all of a sudden the starting right tackle.
Over the course of those two games, Veldheer took 58 pass-blocking snaps and didn’t allow a single sack, hurry, or quarterback hit, and he wasn’t even called for a penalty. Not to mention that against Seattle in the divisional around, the Seahawks tested Veldheer early by lining up Jadeveon Clowney over him, but as we saw, he was up for the challenge.
Looking ahead to free agency and the 2020 season, the Green Bay Packers could certainly bring Veldheer back at a lesser amount than Bulaga and likely on a one-year deal, instead of three. This would allow them to allocate that money to a different position of need but spending an early round draft pick on the tackle position would then become a must because I wouldn’t want to count on Veldheer past 2020.
While in his limited playing time Veldheer had shown that he can still compete with the best of them, my fear is that over a 16 game season he would be exposed much more than he was in his game and a half of action.
So let’s not get it twisted, Bulaga is a better player than Veldheer but if the Green Bay Packers are concerned about giving him a multi-year deal, Veldheer could help bridge the gap for a year while they groom their long-term solution.
With all of that said, given that Bulaga is coming off of an excellent season, is choosing the cheaper option in Veldheer a game the Packers should be playing with a position as important as tackle? I say no, but we will see how things unfold this Spring.